When asked to write a history of myself at the New England Youth Theatre I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to convey in a page the impact that it has had on my life. That may sound overly dramatic (we are, after all, actors), but NEYT really has been more then just a place where I get up on a box and recite lines. It’s become a second home, complete with a huge new family.
For the past six years I have been homeschooled along with my sister at our home in Vermont. This has given me the chance to take control of my own education and to explore and learn in my own way and time, with the support of my parents. They encouraged my sister and me in the arts, and I have taken violin, piano and voice lessons.
We live on 350 acres in The-Middle-of-Nowhere where my grandparents and then parents ran a farm school for over three decades. My grandmother still lives here in a house about a hundred yards from ours. I have a wonderful relationship with both my parents and my grandmother, but not being in school I was never really exposed to large social groups. There were the occasional summer camps, children’s choirs and homeschool groups, but no concrete circle of people I’d had time to get particularly close to.
Then in 2003 my sister started an acting class at the New England Youth Theatre. Over the years our family had attended several productions by the youth company and by Stephen Stearns and his clown partner Peter Gould. I remember being in complete and utter awe every time I came away. It was mesmerizing to me. Even when I was enrolled in a summer camp and had met a number of the children and adults whom I’d admired from afar, and determined that they were indeed human and quite friendly, I still had the feeling of being in the presence of greatness. Which in fact, I was.
That fall I auditioned for the big Christmas musical and from then on out I was hooked. Being onstage under those lights like I’d seen others do was not in fact as frightening as I’d imagined. The environment was (as it still is) non-threatening, allowing people to experiment and learn with the guidance of experienced and supportive teachers. And for the first time I was in an incredibly loving social group, of all ages.
Over these two years I have made friendships so strong that it feels like we must have known each other forever. There is something so bonding about doing this work with people; developing characters together, waiting around under the hot lights for hours at a time during tech days, going out to dinner on breaks and finally, getting up and telling a story together.
The skills that Stephan and our diverse staff are teaching do not just pertain specifically to the stage. They are life skills, whether or not we go on to act professionally: learning to respect and work with people under the most stressful circumstances; understanding the way we each individually learn; being able to take the notes and constructive criticism that comes with this art and not take it personally because we’re all still learning; figuring out how to get through the challenges that come up, especially being able to completely throw ourselves into our work and know that when we do the people around us will rise up and meet us.
One of Stephen’s favorite sayings is “Jump and the net will appear”.
Allie began acting at NEYT with the 2004 melodrama camp. She then went on to do as many shows as her mother would allow, including The Music Man, Princess Willow and the King of Thieves, Buried Child, The Sound of Music, Little Women, as well as Shakespeare and other summer camps.
2007: Groundhog Cabaret, Shakespeare Circus, Scapin, Mary Stuart, Mentor Cabaret Oct., A Night at the Opera.
2008: Twelfth Night, Wait Until Dark, The Taming of the Shrew and the Alumni Cabaret.